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  1. #1
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    I need feedback about my century training plan

    I'm preparing for my first century in mid-April. It is a climbing century, Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic (in San Diego county, in Southern California).

    I've been steadily upping my "long rides" every other weekend, and doing climbs and hill-repeats on the weekends where I'm not doing long rides. My climbing rides are roughly 40-45 miles. And this past weekend my long ride was 56 miles. During the week I commute by bike depending on weather. Daily commute length can vary from 16 miles round trip to 30 miles round trip (if I take the long way to work).

    Now to my questions - I seem to be hitting a limitation whereby I feel my legs become fatigued around the 40-45 mile range. I feel the beginning stages of cramping up. During my last long ride, I made conscious efforts to drink every 10 -15 minutes, taking in fuel (GU-packet) every 30-45 minutes. I've also started (within the last two weeks) taking a men's multi-vitamin which includes potassium.

    At this point, I haven't done enough long duration rides to fully understand my nutritional needs. From my symptoms, does it sound like I'm not taking in enough fuel? Is what am experiencing referred to as bonking? Once I start feeling that cramping sensation, I feel like I have to really be careful of my pace and cadence to keep myself from fully cramping up. And if the road turns uphill while I'm in the beginning phases of cramping, it only gets worse.

    What I haven't been doing during my long rides is stopping for rest. My last ride was just under 4 hours and I pretty much rode the whole time. Do you think if I stopped for 10-15 minutes (perhaps a coffee or food break), would that help with my cramps?

  2. #2
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Increasing your ride distance from 50 miles to 100 miles can be mostly about nutrition & hydration. Are you maintaining fuel?

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    Well, that's what I think I need to do more of. This weekend's ride was my first ride where I paid any attention to maintaining fuel. Perhaps I wasn't taking enough....

    As I mentioned, I was taking in a Gel packet once every 30 minutes beginning after my first 45 minutes. I also ate a hearty breakfast before starting out. So I think I started with enough fuel. Maybe I just need to eat more during my ride, or try different food/fuel.

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    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    I had to work hard at getting my mileage up to 100+ miles.

    Eating and drinking a sports drink every hour was key. I try to consume 200+ calories an hour, even if not hungry. Fruit & nuts work well for me.

    I also upgraded my bike fit with a Brooks saddle, compact bars and Look pedals to increase comfort. The Look style "clipless" pedals and very stiff road shoes were much better on the feet than the low cost MTB shoes and SPD pedals I started with.

    I also just needed to ride as much as possible. I would ride 36 to 55 miles twelve days a month. I rode 5000 miles in 2009.

    I can now ride 130+ miles a day and keep up with faster riders, but it did not come easy.

  5. #5
    Senior Member nubcake's Avatar
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    I would also recommend trying something different nutrition wise. It sounds like you should have a good enough level of fitness to ride 100 miles you just need to make sure to take in enough calories and liquid. I need about 300 calories per hour to maintain for long rides so a cliff bar and sports drink works great but luckily my stomach isn't picky and I can eat just about anything on a long ride. I also make sure I am drinking something with electrolytes as well, one thing I really like to add to my water is from elete. It basically gives you the electrolytes of a sports drink but without any flavor or sweeteners, my water still tastes like water which makes it great for mountain biking when cleaning out a camel back is a pain.
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  6. #6
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Sounds like more of an electrolyte issue than a calorie issue. One regular serving of GU has 55mg of sodium. One regular serving of Perpetuem, for example, has 220mg. You could try some Endurolytes and see if that solves your problem. If so, you might consider the switch to Perpetuem or something else that contains more electrolytes.

    I love Hammer stuff, so I'm biased, but they offer great information on their site that you can use in the future no matter what products you end up using: http://hammernutrition.com/
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    DXchulo,
    I think you may be onto something, but I'm not sure... During my last ride, I took in 2 GU Roctane gels which have 125mg of sodium each. I had 3 or 4 Gu Energy Gels (55mg sodium each). On top of that, I split a Gu Brew packet between bottles of water. That should've given me another 250mg of sodium. After those ran out, I had two full bottles of water. I felt well hydrated and my urine was coming out clear.

    Perhaps my cramping was from conditioning? The week prior to the 56 mile ride was a low mileage week with only one bike commute (30 miles). The prior weekend I did a 25ish mile climbing ride in the canyons near Boulder CO. I'm from Southern California, so climbing in the high elevations in Colorado was pretty challenging, not to mention it was 30F when I started out.

  8. #8
    Administrator CbadRider's Avatar
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    How hard were you pushing on the ride?

    I have found that I need to eat solid food on the bike. Gels and liquids don't sustain me enough. I bring energy bars and will stop for a sandwich or hamburger after about 50 miles.
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  9. #9
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    I have never felt any energy from Gels. Try some breakfast bars from your grocery store Breakfast Section.
    The fruit bars are easy to carry and open while your ride.

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  10. #10
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by idoru2005 View Post
    DXchulo,
    I think you may be onto something, but I'm not sure... During my last ride, I took in 2 GU Roctane gels which have 125mg of sodium each. I had 3 or 4 Gu Energy Gels (55mg sodium each). On top of that, I split a Gu Brew packet between bottles of water. That should've given me another 250mg of sodium. After those ran out, I had two full bottles of water. I felt well hydrated and my urine was coming out clear.

    Perhaps my cramping was from conditioning? The week prior to the 56 mile ride was a low mileage week with only one bike commute (30 miles). The prior weekend I did a 25ish mile climbing ride in the canyons near Boulder CO. I'm from Southern California, so climbing in the high elevations in Colorado was pretty challenging, not to mention it was 30F when I started out.
    Well, it certainly doesn't sound like a calorie issue to me. That's a lot of GU. So it's either a fitness issue or an electrolyte issue. I would guess it's a fitness issue, so get some consistent short rides in your legs and then try again. If you still cramp up, try adding Endurolytes to your GU routine. If you still cramp up, I would try switching from GU to something else and see if that changes things for you.
    centuryperweek.blogspot.com

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    Gus have no protein.
    I've only done 3 centuries (200ks actually) since starting Rando riding in December, but my cramping went away when I added protein.

    The Accell Gel gu type packets have protein, and I eat some Cliff bars or Powerbars during the ride now too.
    I still have a long way to go in my riding, but it seemed to work for me.

    Many people swear by the Hammer products but I haven't tried em yet.

  12. #12
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    +1 on the Hammer products. Try Sustained Energy with a little Hammer Gel in it, so it comes out tasting OK and about 750 cal./bottle, enough for 3 hours. Plain water in the other bottle. For the century, carry a baggie with powder in it to make more, and a flask of HG. Also get some Endurolytes. Try 1-2 Endurolytes every hour, or enough to create some thirst. Put them in a coin purse shoved up your shorts leg if it's not raining. Well worth a try. If it doesn't help or fix your problem, don't buy more.

    Conditioning might also be part of it. Try to maintain 150 miles/week. Also, practice getting out of the saddle for 1 minute in every 10, or every time you come off the front of a paceline. Stretches the legs. Practice eating a little SE mix and drinking a little water every 15 minutes. Watching the time adds to your situational awareness, so you don't drift off into funk and mess up your hydration, etc.

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    Thanks for all the great suggestions everyone.

    Here's a little bit of information about my fitness level. I'm about 5'5" weighing on average 142lbs. I work out in the gym about 1-2 times per week doing mostly upper body, core work, and running on the treadmill about 30 minutes. I have relatively low low body fat (maybe 15-17%), and I've been practicing Ashtanga yoga for the past 10 years, so flexibility is a non-issue. I have mostly a whole-food diet.

    I'll definitely give all the products you've mentioned a try, especially the Endurolytes. With all the great weather we've been having lately, i'm definitely going to start upping the weekday mileage. I'll also (as Carbonfiberboy suggested) practice standing every few minutes. Dang, I'll need a bigger wedge bag to hold all these powders and bars.

  14. #14
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Running on the treadmill for 30 minutes a couple times/week and doing yoga doesn't do it. Nothing starts to happen until about the 45 minute mark. If you must use the gym, try the StepMill (stairway to hell) for an hour at a time. That helps a tiny bit. If they have a spin class, that helps. 3 sets of 30 on the squat rack and again on the leg sled helps. Do that after the StepMill.

  15. #15
    Senior Member skiffrun's Avatar
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    Your longest ride is 56 miles. And you didn't feel very good and didn't enjoy it.

    What is your 5th longest ride?
    What is your 10th longest ride?

    If your 5th longest is still only about 35 miles, I suggest that you have not yet transitioned your brain and body to riding longer. Both are still in mode for short, quick rides.

    Are you trying to ride the same pace for 56 miles as you were doing for 30 or 35 milers?
    A "hammer-pace" that worked for 30 or 35 miles will likely not work for 56 miles, and certainly not for 100 miles.
    Slow down by 1 or 2 mph. Especially at the beginning of the ride. You can always pick it up later if you are feeling good.

    Have your 35 mile rides been flat, and the rides you're now trying been NOT flat?
    If the answer to the above is "yes, yes", then your body and brain may have to learn how to ride NOT flats.
    In the meantime, if you are trying to hammer (stomp) up hills, stop doing that.

    Make sure you ENJOY all the rides.
    That way you will keep doing more, and even if you have had to slow down to enjoy the longer rides,
    once you get used to longer, you will go faster, until you find your limit on the distance / terrain you're riding.

  16. #16
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    I've been steadily upping my "long rides" every other weekend, and doing climbs and hill-repeats on the weekends where I'm not doing long rides. My climbing rides are roughly 40-45 miles. And this past weekend my long ride was 56 miles. During the week I commute by bike depending on weather. Daily commute length can vary from 16 miles round trip to 30 miles round trip (if I take the long way to work).
    My guess is you're doing too much and not allowing enough for recovery. If you're commuting 16-30 miles, you are getting in miles but not smart ones. When building up for an event like a century, you need to alternate hard and easy periods. That could mean alternate days, or a couple hard days followed by an off day.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  17. #17
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    what about your cadence? many newer riders push to big a gear at too low a cadence instead of spinning an easier gear at a higher rpm. your legs will last a lot longer as you use more of your aerobic system and less of pure muscle force

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    To Skiffrun, StanSeven, and zzzwillzzz,
    Thanks for those comments. I'll try to address them.

    First Sfiffrun, I'm pretty accustomed to doing 40 milers. You are right that I'm not yet accustomed to doing longer rides, and I will do a few more 55 milers before I shoot for my 75 miler in Mid March (I'll actually pre-ride part of the century course). I'm using this period to understand my nutritional needs for rides lasting longer than 2-3 hours. That being said, I did enjoy the 56 miler. Its just that I ran in to difficulties around 45 miles. I normally choose hilly or mountain routes for my 30-45 mile rides. For my 56 miler, I chose a very flat route. So I knew I had to take this flat route with a different attitude than I normally do. I was very careful about pace and took the first 10-15 miles much slower than usual (between 13-15 mph), then picked up the pace to 17-18mph. I didn't hammer at all during the whole ride. As for climbing, I generally spin in the 90 rpm range, and stand occasionally to give various muscles time to rest.

    For StanSeven, your opinion is appreciated. I've been commuting by bike for the past 2 years - logged about 3400 miles in the last 1.5 years. I can do a short-easy route which takes me 8 miles each way (remember the rides are spaced roughly 8 hours apart). I can go an easy 16 miles one way - again without breaking a sweat. Or I can do a moderate 22 miles one way. I have plenty of chances to mix it up, but in general, when commuting only 2-3 times a week, I feel like I'm giving myself distinct recovery periods between "long" rides and climbing rides. Given that I have options, how would you suggest I spend my weekday miles (smartly)? Should I just do the easiest 8 mile one-way routes during the week?

    For zzzwillzzz - I've ridden long enough to know the benefits of higher cadence. So when riding flat roads, I gear up so that I'm doing between 95-105 rpm. While climbing, I try to stay between 90 and 95 rpm. I rarely ride at lower than 85 rpm.

  19. #19
    Senior Member howsteepisit's Avatar
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    Try a slightly lower cadence. My natural cadence is between 80 and 90. While I can ride at higher cadences, I tend to get crampy. And for those of you who say I just am not used to higher cadences, I have been riding (off and on, but riding) for some 35 years, and raced in my youth, and my best cadences are no more than 90. Just the way I am built.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    don't experiment with foods and fluids. meaning: eat foods and fluids you know and trust. a long bike ride is no place to have any kind if stomach or intestinal discomfort.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Well that's the problem. I haven't ridden long distances for long enough to have established what foods and fluids I trust. I'm just now learning about Hammer, Gu, and other products. I haven't had any sort of stomach discomfort so far. But I still need to discover what will work for eliminating my cramping problem.

  22. #22
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I know, but you eat and drink every day, right? you don't have to consume new unfamiliar foods; drinks and supplements to ride long distances. you can eat and drink regular stuff (so long as it's the RIGHT STUFF and TIMED properly). I'm a big fan of bananas; raisins; and turkey sandwiches but timing is everything.

    I work with a guy who swears by peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and he rides alot!
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  23. #23
    Senior Member canopus's Avatar
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    I don't do good with all the "fun" new products either. I use regular old gatoraid and water and real food. I do keep some Pria bars with me as needed but try to limit those those for bananas and oranges when on rides. The best I felt was after stopping for a chicken sandwich in the middle of my rides.

  24. #24
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    Hi Canopus and rumrunn, Your points about "real food" ie, the chicken sandwich, is intriguing. Up to this point, I haven't tried stopping for 'real' food during any of my long rides. That is 'on my plate' to try in the next few weeks to see if I can handle that during a long ride. As for peanut butter and jelly, I've also heard from my co-worker who does triathlons and long distance riding that also vouches for pb&j. Thanks again for all the great suggestions.

  25. #25
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I was going to mention snickers bars but then decided to leave it alone. but since another BFer mentioned them, I'll also mention that yesterday in a book store I flipped through a Lance Armstrong pictorial book, and one picture shows a car drivers passing him 2 snickers bars while he is ridign.

    I have bought them and sometimes ate them along my ride after lunch like for the last 10 miles, you know. but honestly my stomach really didn't care for it and not with Gatorade. now when I buy them I only eat them if I am desperate, but more often I eat them in the car on the way home after the ride. it's good emergency snack but honestly - there must be something better. bananas are great but I get bore of them and prefer only one in a day
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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